Sesame St S1: Bert & Ernie, Pt 2

Beautiful Day eats Bert's cake.

Beautiful Day eats Bert’s cake.

And in “Ernie Eats Cake,” Ernie cries wolf, and it backfires. Bert enters the room to discover that one of his pieces of cake is missing, and Ernie is standing in front of a crumb-covered plate, holding a chocolately napkin, and a fork. Bert scolds him for what he did, and Ernie says that maybe he didn’t eat it. Maybe a monster came in, picked up the slice of cake, shook the crumbs over his plate, ate the cake, wiped his mouth on the napkin, handed it to Ernie, and then placed the fork in his hand.


Bert, of course, doesn’t believe him and exits, Ernie agreeing after he leaves that he shouldn’t have. But then what should happen but Beautiful Day wanders in and does exactly what Ernie described with the other piece of cake, perfectly framing Ernie to take the fall for the crime, which he does when Bert returns, leaving Ernie sobbing in frustration?!


The amazing “Who Took Bert’s Cookies?”, meanwhile, hilariously turns that scenario on its head. Bert arrives to find his cookie eaten and blames Ernie, who is practically covered in clues of having been the culprit, although he denies it. Bert proceeds to list the clues, and tells him that he unequivocally believes that someone who looks just like him, with his hair, his sweater, and his “k-k-k-k” laugh is the thief. But then who should appear but Cookie Monster, wearing an Ernie sweater and a wig of Ernie hair, and laughing exactly like Ernie, before grabbing and eating more of Bert’s cookies?! And in a terrific twist on the norm, Bert and Ernie both faint in response!


And speaking of Ernie being undone by monsters, I also watched a great Ernie and Cookie Monster sketch, “Ernie’s Nap”. What I love about Ernie and Cookie scenes in general is that they’re also Jim Henson/Frank Oz scenes, albeit ones where Ernie is the one put in what is typically the Bert position of being undone by a trickster figure. Here, Ernie is trying to take a nap, when Cookie arrives on the scene and gets major pillow envy, when he sees the nice, big, fluffy one currently resting on Ernie’s head, so he rings a bell to distract him, hoping Ernie will leave the bed so he can grab the pillow.


The first time, Ernie thinks it might be a fire truck but returns before Cookie can make off with the pillow. Ditto the second time, when he thinks it might be the phone ringing. The third, he actually catches Cookie in the act, and is about to scold him for taking his pillow but Cookie begs so sweetly that Ernie agrees that the two of them can share the pillow. And so Cookie tears the pillow in half, giving one half to Ernie and proceeding to eat his half, causing Ernie to burst into frustrated tears!


Other times, however, monsters work in Ernie’s favor, such as in Ernie’s “How Many?” Quiz (03:05-4:09), in which Ernie shows Bert a succession of pictures with 4 things in it–a dog with 4 legs, a table with 4 legs, and finally a monster with 4 eyes. Bert scoffs, “Nothing in the world has 4 eyes and looks like that. That’s the ugliest, most awful looking, disgusting creature…” Naturally, at that moment, out from behind the picture pops an actual monster that looks exactly like that, and Bert runs off in terror!


"What Happens Next?"

“What Happens Next?”

Speaking of games, I also watched yet another “What Happens Next?” sketch. This time around, however, Ernie is the one with the cards, quizzing Bert, and this time around, although Bert ends up getting as annoyed at Ernie as ever, it basically is really his own fault for getting too cocky. The first 3 are very straightforward cards–a man going down some stairs, about to step into a bucket; a baseball about to crash into a window; the sun shining down on a block of ice. In the fourth, however, a man, dressed in pajamas is standing next to a bed, and Bert is sure that he’s about to get into it (he’s actually, unusually, really enjoying himself). The actual answer, however, is that it’s actually morning and the man is getting out of bed. For me, this is an ususual example of Ernie not actually tricking Bert so much as Bert being so set in his ways and his own rightness that he doesn’t open his mind to an alternate, very simple solution.


It’s at least more fair than the “Sandbox Game,” in which Ernie convinces Bert to trade off with him saying “I 1 the sandbox,” “I 2 the sandbox,” “I 3 the sandbox,” and so on and so forth until Bert gets to “I 8 the sandbox,” and Ernie laughs at him for saying he ate the sandbox. I mean, it was a pretty obvious trick that Bert probably should’ve seen coming a mile away but at least here he isn’t done in by his own hubris.


Next, we have yet another game, an interesting twist on “What Happens Next,” which is instead “What Happened Here?” Again, Ernie’s the one with the pictures, but this time Bert has to guess what happened before each picture was drawn. And unlike in the previous sketch, Bert isn’t enjoying himself this time around. He finds the answers too easy, so he must be in a mood today. Anyway, after guessing that an empty, open birdcage meant someone let the bird out, and a man who’s fallen next to a banana peel must have slipped on it, he’s ready to leave, when Ernie shows him a blank paper which Bert refuses to believe is a picture. Ernie sets him right, however. It’s actually a picture of a cow who has eaten grass. And why is there no grass on the page? “The cow ate it.” And why is there no cow? “Well, after she ate the grass she went home. Why should she stay around?”


And finally, we have “Bert’s Big Sneeze,” a sketch that introduces one of the major recurring motifs to the Bert and Ernie comedic canon, or at least introduces it on the air for the first time, as it previously appeared in the unaired first test pilot. Namely, it is the running gag of Ernie stealing Bert’s nose as a gag. This first time, however, Ernie doesn’t actually just grab it off his face. Instead, Bert suffers such a huge, violent sneeze that he actually manages to sneeze it off his face and into a hanky that Ernie graciously agreed to hold out for him. But naturally, at this point, with his best buddy Bert’s nose in his hand, how could Ernie resist having a little fun with it? Bert asks him to please reattach it, and Ernie agrees to do so, but not before first sticking it to his cheek, his chin, and his forehead to a particularly (and ironically, come to think of it) nasal-voiced Bert’s woeful objections before finally putting it back where it belongs and thus gaining the inspiration for far more mischief to come.


Noseless Bert, post-sneeze.

Noseless Bert, post-sneeze.

This is another one of those sketches that doesn’t seem to have any specific educational point other than whimsy, which is wonderful. I love that Sesame Street refused to condescend. Sure, some kids might be disturbed by the idea of someone’s nose coming off due to a powerful sneeze, yet the writers trust the kids to cope with it, to understand that although the Muppets are real to them, the rules are different than for people, and perhaps even to grow more used to silliness, humor, and play.


And with that, my abridged survey of the first season of Sesame Street is complete! As I mentioned in previous posts, the show very quickly became a monster-sized hit, with a huge audience of children and adults, being broadcast in 50 countries, and gaining numerous awards–including Grammys!–and more. It became so huge in the cultural zeitgeist that, before the start of its second season, the Sesame Street characters made some variety show appearances just as Jim’s other Muppets continued to do throughout the years. And I’ll be taking a look at some of those, after we break for the review of the latest episode of The Muppets tomorrow.


Pages: 1 2